“Are all my young masters enjoying themselves today?” The person paid no attention to the apparent astonishment of the people within the tents. His body was slightly bowed, and his face was full of smiles. He swung the long brush he was holding and bowed in greeting.
“Ah, you flatter us. Please sit, Eunuch Gao.” Xie Bi was a regular in the Royal Court, and was the first to react. He rushed forward to stop the eunuch in his bow.
“Oh, there’s no need to sit.” Gao Zhan was an old confidant of the Emperor, having personally served His Majesty for more than thirty years. He had long since been promoted to the Head Eunuch of the Royal Palace, yet remained humble in his manners and actions. He did not show any sign of discourtesy to these children who were his junior by decades. He said, smiling, “Please follow me. The Grand Empress Dowager wishes to see you.”
“The Grand Empress Dowager?” Xie Bi was startled. “Her Majesty is here as well?”
“That’s right. The Grand Empress Dowager is upon the Phoenix Building. Her Majesty saw you youngsters enjoying yourselves, and asked you to join her.”
“All of us?”
“Yes. This mister and this young man, all of you.”
Xie Bi turned around, and the group looked at each other. This Grand Empress Dowager was the official grandmother of the Emperor, and was past the venerable age of ninety. She never participated in politics, and enjoyed a long life from the carefree lifestyle. The Empress Dowager had passed away for many years, and she was still leading an enjoyable life. She loved being surrounded by the younger generation, so it was not surprising for her to summon them. However, nobody thought that she would still be able to see the people sitting below with her aging eyes.
Astonished or not, not even the Emperor can refuse summons from the Grand Empress Dowager. The group straightened their clothes. They followed Gao Zhan out the tent and entered the Phoenix Building from the side stairs.
The Grand Empress Dowager was not at the main building. Rather, she was sitting in a warm hall that was sheltered from the wind. Upon entering, the group saw a white-haired old lady leaning upon a soft couch. Her face was filled with wrinkles and kindness. Four people sat by her side amidst a group of maids and eunuchs.
Mei Changsu’s eyes flickered slightly, and confirmed the identities of these four people.
Upon the main seat sat the official wife of the Emperor, Empress Yan. She was donned in yellow robes and a phoenix crown. There were already wrinkles by her eyes and mouth, and only a hint of her youthful beauty remained. At the right of the Empress was a beautiful well-groomed madam. She was also past forty, but was evidently better maintained with her bright skin. This was the birth mother of the Crown Prince, Noble Consort Yue. At the left of the Empress sat a more dignified middle-aged madam. Her beautiful eyes were a bit familiar. It was, of course, Princess Liyang. The last person was a young lady. Her clothes were simple, and her makeup was light. Although her features were not breathtaking, she possessed a heroic air and bright spirit. None of the noble madams dressed in finery could surpass her in presence. Who else besides Princess Nihuang could possess such a demeanor?
“Are they here?” asked the Grand Empress Dowager. She sat up shakily, happiness spreading across her face. “Quick, call them here. Tell me, who are these children?”
Yan Yujin couldn’t resist a smile, and was glared at by Empress Yan.
Due to her old age, the Grand Empress Dowager had become a bit confused within recent years. Even though she enjoyed the company of young ones, she cannot remember who was who. Sometimes she would see someone one day and need to be reintroduced the next.
Gao Zhan led the group forward. Mei Changsu was coaxing Feiliu quietly. “In a bit, let’s allow the grandma to hold your hand, okay? Let’s smile for the grandma, okay?”
Feiliu’s face was cold, revealing an unwilling expression.
The Grand Empress Dowager was already holding the hand of Xiao Jingrui, who was closest to her. Gao Zhan hurriedly introduced from the side, “This is the eldest son of the Marquess of Ning, Xiao Jingrui.”
“Little Rui, have you married yet?” asked the old lady kindly.
“Oh. You need to hurry!”
She patted Xiao Jingrui on the head, then turned to hold Xie Bi’s hand.
“This is the second son of the Marquess of Ning, Xie Bi.”
“Little Bi, have you married yet?”
“You need to hurry!”
Next, the Grand Empress Dowager motioned towards Feiliu. Mei Changsu hastily pushed him forward. The youth’s face was cold. He let the old lady grab his hand reluctantly.
“This young man is named Feiliu…” Gao Zhan introduced after quickly asking Xie Bi.
“Little Fei, have you married yet?”
“You need to hurry!”
“N—” Mei Changsu quickly stepped forward and covered his mouth before Feiliu could say “no”. The Grand Empress Dowager’s attention immediately turned to Mei Changsu. She pulled over his hand and looked at him with a smile.
“This is Mr. Su, Su Zhe,” said Gao Zhan.
“Little Shu,” asked the Grand Empress Dowager with a bit of a lisp, “Have you married yet?”
“You need to hurry!”
The last person to be pulled over was Yan Yujin. After being introduced by Gao Zhan, the Grand Empress Dowager asked as usual, “Little Jin, have you married yet?”
Yan Yujin blinked and answered mischievously, “Yes, I’m married.”
The Grand Empress Dowager paused slightly as if still processing the response, but she quickly followed with a new question, “Do you have a child yet?”
Yan Yujin blanked, and murmured, “Not yet…”
“You need to hurry!”
Empress Yan stepped forward and spoke respectfully, “Grandmother, do you want the children to sit with you for a bit?”
“Yes, yes.” The Grand Empress Dowager was very happy. She waved her hand, “Come sit. Little Shu, sit by great-grandma. Little Rui and little Bi, sit here. Little Jin, don’t stand there. Little Fei is too far…”
Surrounded by young ones, the old lady was very pleased. She ordered plate after plate of exquisite fruits and snacks and divided them between the group as if they were young children. She watched them eat from the side and laughed with delight.
The Grand Empress Dowager was of high age after all. Even though she was feeling joyful, she began to tire soon. Empress Yan and Princess Liyang began to fear for her health. Together, they coaxed and lied, finally convincing the Grand Empress Dowager to return to her palace and rest. The group was thus finally let out.
Mei Changsu thought that this unusual summons thus end smoothly. He relaxed slightly and walked out the warm hall with the rest. However, just as the party reached the stairs, a pleasant female voice behind them called out, “Mr. Su, please wait.”
She only called for “Mr. Su” to wait, but as one could imagine, everyone stopped and turned around in unison.
She was the official wife of the current Emperor’s grandfather. She is not necessarily related to the Emperor by blood.
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